Henderson JAM looking very sweet
February 01, 2016MARION, VA — Earlier this month, Marion's Henderson School was standing room only as elementary school students from across Smyth County braved the bitter cold to sign up for the inaugural JAM program. Headed by Catherine Poole, Smyth County JAM follows a decades-old model to teach traditional Appalachian music to kids. JAM, for Junior Appalachian Musicians, introduces students to banjo, guitar and fiddle in an eight-week class, with regional experts providing weekly instruction. At the conclusion of the class, the students participate in an "all-star jam session" to showcase their new talent.
Sixty-nine students and another 100 parents, grandparents and guardians packed the former grade school for orientation and to sign up. Instruments were provided by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, The Wayne C. Henderson Foundation, community donations and a generous gift from Mountain View Pediatrics. Students will be able to "check out" their instrument of choice to take the class, allowing them to practice at home. Parents may also choose to purchase an instrument through the school at cost — about $100. Smyth County schools and District Three are partnering with the Henderson JAM to help with transportation and snacks.
The weekly classes last just over two hours. One hour, students participate in a classroom enrichment program, where they learn about our region and rich musical heritage. The next hour, students pick up their instruments and pick along with the instructors.
"We are so thrilled at the interest," said Henderson director Poole. "We were hoping to get a couple dozen for this introductory session, so we were a bit overwhelmed at the huge crowd. Our volunteers stepped up, processed the paperwork, and we're up and running."
Classes cost $120 per student for the 12-week semester. Those receiving free or reduced lunch get a 50 percent discount. And the Henderson is taking donations to help offset costs for qualifying students who are interested but cannot afford the registration fee.
"Just a couple years ago, this was going to be a parking lot," said Marion mayor David Helms. "Tonight, we celebrate this packed house with a new generation of students coming through the doors of this historic schoolhouse, saved by the passion of this community, and brought back to life to continue being a place of learning."
"We couldn't be more proud," said Ken Heath, Marion's director of community and economic development. "Catherine continues to bring more and more opportunities to the Henderson, from her painting parties to letterpress classes, to partnering with our two community colleges, to teaching traditional Appalachian music. Soon, we'll be equipping the lutherie where Wayne Henderson and his contemporaries will offer instrument-making classes. Local groups from our Art League to the quilters guild to our local theater troupe have found a home here at The Henderson, and a loyal and passionate supporter in Catherine. And she's just getting started."
MEET THE INSTRUCTORS:
Jim Lloyd, is the lead instructor of the Smyth County JAM program. Raised in the coalfields of western Virginia, Lloyd makes his home in Rural Retreat, Va., where he operates Lloyd's Barber Shop, a local gathering spot for collecting and trading tunes, stories and songs. His musical roots extend back through at least four generations of fiddlers, guitar players, dancers and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Lloyd is known especially for his skills on guitar and banjo. Through the influences of his extended family and fortunate upbringing in the Heart of Traditional Mountain Music, he has "old bones" with a knowledge and appreciation for the "old ways" well beyond his years. According to Poole, "Jim embraces teaching and intertwines stories with his instruction, he is magical with the kids, and we are very fortunate to have him devote his talents and wisdom to the junior musicians of Smyth County."
Steve Kilby is one of the pioneers of JAM model, beginning as an instructor with Helen White, who developed the JAM program in North Carolina. A 30-year veteran of many bands, recording and competitions, Kilby learned much of the music he plays from his grandfather, and is honored to be part of a living musical tradition. Over the years, his guitar wizardry has earned him many honors including being named seven-time Fiddler's Grove guitar champion, two first-place ribbons and a best all-around performer trophy from Galax convention, and winner of the North Carolina State guitar champion
Madison Greer's music career started with her parents and grandparents, who surrounded her with bluegrass music. At 7, Greere took interest in learning to play the fiddle. In 2012, she placed was featured on RFD-TV, as she scored a top 10 win in the talent competition at the National Future Farmers of America Convention. When she's not teaching, Greer is on stage, playing at venues including the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Va., The Pickin' Porch in Bristol, Tenn., The Bristol Mural in downtown Bristol, and Heartwood in Abingdon, Va.
Henderson director Catherine Poole addresses the parents and students.